Today my latest article was published at Frontiers in Psychology. The name of the article is Social Regulation of Emotion: Messy Layers Frontiers is an open access journal so the article can be easily downloaded and shared.
My article deals with the relationship of emotions and regulation. I believe that emotions regulate our behavior and the behavior of others. We and others are motivated to affect our emotions in turn due to their intrinsic properties. For example to make them go away, to change them, to replace them, or to strengthen them. Thus, the notion of emotion without thinking about regulation does not make much sense. I have developed these arguments over the last few years in several chapters and articles.
Here is the abstract of the new article:
Emotions are evolved systems of intra- and interpersonal processes that are regulatory in nature, dealing mostly with issues of personal or social concern. They regulate social interaction and in extension, the social sphere. In turn, processes in the social sphere regulate emotions of individuals and groups. In other words, intrapersonal processes project in the interpersonal space, and inversely, interpersonal experiences deeply influence intrapersonal processes. Thus, I argue that the concepts of emotion generation and regulation should not be artificially separated. Similarly, interpersonal emotions should not be reduced to interacting systems of intraindividual processes. Instead, we can consider emotions at different social levels, ranging from dyads to large scale e-communities. The interaction between these levels is complex and does not only involve influences from one level to the next. In this sense the levels of emotion/regulation are messy and a challenge for empirical study. In this article, I discuss the concepts of emotions and regulation at different intra- and interpersonal levels. I extend the concept of auto-regulation of emotions (Kappas, 2008, 2011a,b) to social processes. Furthermore, I argue for the necessity of including mediated communication, particularly in cyberspace in contemporary models of emotion/regulation. Lastly, I suggest the use of concepts from systems dynamics and complex systems to tackle the challenge of the “messy layers.”
It has been way too long that I posted something in this blog.
Of course, as many people, I am somewhat swamped with things to do and this means that I have to prioritize projects. I do have the plan to continue the issue of the Fridlund study I discussed in the previous post - or more conceptually, the question what determines facial activity, but that will take a bit more writing time. In the meanwhile just a pointer to an old post - there was something on emotions and soccer that seems quite relevant due to current soccer related events and a new post in the open positions section. If you have a masters degree in psychology or a related disciplines and are interested in pursuing a PhD that links to emotions, empathy, and robots (yes!) then check out the open positions section ...
2011 – the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s NEVERMIND, Pearl Jam’s TEN, and Fridlund’s paper on IMPLICIT SOCIALITY. While I have seen whole special issues and disks covering Nirvana’s album and some long articles on Pearl Jam’s first album, I have not seen any special issue, or even long article on Alan Fridlund’s article. A shame. A lacuna that needs to be taken care of, so let me remind you of, or introduce you to:
Fridlund, A. J. (1991). The sociality of solitary smiles: Effects of an implicit audience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 229-240.
This is a very important empirical study that has serious implications for the way that we (should) think about facial activity. Everybody who works in research and engineering on projects that involve the relationship between what people feel and what people show on their face should know about this study and its findings. They should know it well.
Imagine, you hear about a psychological study that involves a task you should perform with a friend – so you bring a friend along to the lab. Once there, the experimenter tells you that the two of you are going to watch a funny movie together (actually a series of five clips, spliced together, totaling a bit over 13 minutes). While watching the clip, the activity of a couple of facial muscles is measured using electrodes glued to your face. If you must know, a pair of electrodes on your left cheek, your right cheek, and the left brow. The cheek site relates to the muscle Zygomaticus Major, that we use for smiling. The brow site assesses activity at the site of Corrugator Supercilii, a muscle we use to frown by pulling the brows together and down. To make it less explicit that facial activity was at the center of the researcher’s interest there were also some electrodes on other sites, the top of the head or the hand and the experimenter said something about recording brain waves … After the end of the funny clips you answer how you feel using some scales, in fact you had also answered the same questions at the beginning of the experiment. Not complicated. (Fridlund refers to this condition as explicit coviewing)
In a parallel universe, you arrive with your friend, but the experimenter in this world tells you that you will watch a funny movie in one room while your friend watches the same movie at the same time in a different room. Again, your facial activity is measured and you indicate after the experiment how you feel. (= implicit coviewing)
In yet another universe, you arrive with a friend, but this time the experimenter tells you the good news that you are going to watch the funny clip while your friend is filling out something that does not relate to this at all – it is part of a different study. (= implicit irrelevant task)
Surprisingly, there is even a parallel universe where you are not aware of any experiment involving friends – you come to a study alone where you are being told that you will watch a funny movie etc etc. (= solitary participation)
So now that you picture the four situations in your mind – like in Sesame Street: One of the foursituations when you are watching the clip is different. Which one? The one where two people watch a movie together – in the other three you are alone in a room watching the movie, having electrodes attached to your face, and answering questions.
According to the predominant view regarding the relationship of feelings and emotional expressions at the time, one would predict that there should be no difference in the expression across the three solitary conditions – or, for that matter, the subjective experience in the three conditions where you are alone. Why? The assumption would be that when we are alone, we show simply what we feel – which would be the same in all three. There is no need to modulate what you show for reasons that it might be inappropriate, or that somebody would expect something from us – in contrast, when we are together with others, then different rules would apply – what Ekman and Friesen have referred to as “display rules”.
I remember, when I was in grad school at Dartmouth College, in the late 80’s, I received a description of this study and was asked what my predictions were for the findings. I do not remember exactly what I answered, but I do remember that I was wrong, once the results of the study were revealed – The ingenuous study by Alan Fridlund demonstrated that the most smiling occurred when friends watched the clip together, OK, no surprise here, but rather than all the other situations being the same, it mattered what the subjects thought their friend was doing. If you thought your friend was watching the same film in another room concurrently, then you smiled more than when your friend was supposedly doing something else. For Fridlund this was not surprising – he argued that it does not only matter who is actually physically present, but who is present in our head – something he referred to as implicit sociality. The next surprising thing was that the subjective experience was the same all cases independent from the intensity of the smiles – from this Fridlund concluded that emotions do not matter – that facial activity is determined only by the social context – whether explicit or implicit.
I do not agree with the latter conclusion – and I have reasons not to, but I will talk about that in the next installment of the blog. In the meanwhile, if you find this interesting, go and get a copy of the paper and read it – including the theoretical explanation that relates to behavioral ecology – Fridlund explained this much better than I could do here in a couple of paragraphs. In fact, you will find that there were also a couple of hypothetical studies – one involving “a small sample (n = 5) of advanced graduate students and doctoral candidates studying the face and emotion at a major northeastern university” (p. 235) that did not predict these results (to illustrate the point that the pattern of findings is not trivial) … you know one of these students I guess ;-)
I think I have seen more robots in the two weeks of my Japan visit than ever before. Obviously, there is much research being done on all aspects of creating robots/androids and studying the interaction of humans with artificial entities, whether they are physical, as in a robot that moves and might be able to move around, or on a computer monitor as a graphic representation.
One of the highlights of the ISRE conference was a key note address by Hiroshi Ishiguro from University of Osaka and the ATR. Prof. Ishiguro is well known for his work on creating machines that look like humans. Specifically, like particular humans - hence he refers to these as geminoids - as in twin. A different term is "actroid" - geminoid is in fact a registered trademark by ATR. Whether geminoid or actroid, they are all androids (or gynoids), i.e., machines that resemble male or female humans. The effect is stunning. Whether moving or not they are close enough to a "real" human being to have some sort of presence. Unless they are sitting in a corner and not doing much, they are not mistaken for being human (von der Pütten et al., 2011). However, they are also not "just" a machine. How much of humanity we perceive in these machines is one of the key research questions several research groups are currently investigating.
Von der Pütten, A.M., Krämer, N.C., Becker-Asano, C., & Ishiguro, H. (2011). An android in the field. HRI 2011, 283-284.
Hiroshi Ishiguro, Geminoid F, Arvid Kappas at ISRE 2011 in Kyoto, July 2011.
Ishiguro outlines the history of his quest for building machines that we might perceive as being human. One of the early attempts was a gynoid that looked like his daughter (Repliee R1). In his words - that was uncanny. But he believes that the newest generation of geminoids, such as Geminoid F is not uncanny anymore. The word uncanny here refers to Masahiro Mori's notion of the uncanny valley. Personally, I am not sure regarding Geminoid F. To me she was still somewhat uncanny ... but she was a she and not an it.
The official conference fan. Not a bad idea, given the weather.
I am currently at the conference of the International Society for Research on Emotions which is being held in Kyoto, Japan, from July 26-29, 2011.
So what can one find at such a conference? Interestingly enough, not only the present, but much past, and also some future. Today, the first day of the conference, there were some presentations dealing with how emotions, such as fear or anger, were perceived by philosophers in Greece and Rome (David Konstan, Brown University) or in England between the 12th and 18th century (Susan Broomhall, presenting for Philippa Maddern, both Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions). What can one learn from this? That the way we understand what emotions are, how they come about, what they do etc. is shaped in powerful ways by the environment and the prevalent beliefs and practices. This is relevant because it is unlikely that today we are so enlightened that we have achieved objectivity in answering these questions. In fact, not only is objectivity a difficult concept today and in the future, when emotions are concerned, but the questions that we ask, are also shaped by our present cultures, as two other presenters pointed out. This matters because, as David Konstan pointed out, if we do brain research, on a particular emotion, say anger, then how we go about doing this is strongly shaped by our present understanding of what anger is or is not - thus, the objectivity that the machines and sophisticated methods in neuroscience seems to provide is hopelessly intermingled with the subjectivity of the researcher that defines the question to be studied there and how. Interesting.
Tomorrow there is much about the future, robots, cyberemotions, and the like.
Wow, it has been so long that I wrote something! Not for a lack of topics, but simply because I felt there was too much to do. Perhaps I should write about the feeling of too much to do ;-)
In the meanwhile, I can tell with happiness and pride that the book I edited with Nicole Krämer from Uni Duisburg-Essen is finally out. That is, it is already out in Europe - in the US it will be towards the end of July, 2011.
Face-to-Face Communication over the Internet
Emotions in a Web of Culture, Language, and Technology
Social platforms such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have rekindled the initial excitement of cyberspace. Text-based, computer-mediated communication has been enriched with face-to-face communication such as Skype, as users move from desktops to laptops with integrated cameras and related hardware. Age, gender and culture barriers seem to have crumbled and disappeared as the user base widens dramatically. Other than simple statistics relating to e-mail usage, chatrooms and blog subscriptions, we know surprisingly little about the rapid changes taking place. This book assembles leading researchers on nonverbal communication, emotion, cognition and computer science to summarize what we know about the processes relevant to face-to-face communication as it pertains to telecommunication, including video-conferencing. The authors take stock of what has been learned regarding how people communicate, in person or over distance, and set the foundations for solid research helping to understand the issues, implications and possibilities that lie ahead.
Folk theory and many classic approaches to emotions assume that a stimulus will trigger an emotional reaction that then needs to be regulated, or it will go on and on and on ... The auto-regulation model (e.g., Kappas, 2011) assumes that emotions influence their eliciting situation and in this interaction will lead to their own modulation, including termination.
Christina responded: "Ah too tough to justify emotion with regulation. Emotion is an expression which may or may not cause other to regulate their feelings..The criteria here is "Concern" What you say?"
Thanks Christina. I did not mean to 'justify' emotion. However, I do not think that emotion and regulation should be contrasted as much as they are, when many people discuss these terms. And I do mean scientists as well as non‐scientists!
I believe that we call emotions is an integral part of a regulation system - or integral parts, plural, because I believe we subsume several functionally related processes under the heading emotion, even if they differ with regard to when and where they happen.
When you say that emotion is an expression, I do not ask "expression of what?" but "why is it expressed?" - and here I am not talking about each individual case but generally. The question, for me at least, is not why person x showed emotion Y in the situation Z, but rather why tend people to show Y in situations of type Z. So the thought here would be that something is expressed to achieve something - either in or for the expressor directly, or for others, which probably means for both. I believe that if there is a systematic pattern of Y to be shown in situations Z then it is a mix of biology and cultural constraints that shaped that pattern because it serves a particular function. The function is what would cause that link to become stable over time.
The function could be to get attention, to appease, to threaten, etc etc. This is what I mean with regulation in the sense that relationships with others are structured via what we call emotions.
What do you mean with "concern" in this context? Whether the situation that is associated with the expression is of personal concern to the person who is in the emotional state?
"El tahrir", taken on Feb 5, By Mahmoud Saber
Time flies. Whether one is having fun, or not. My blog has been quiet during the last semester as I was focusing on new research activities. Now, spring semester has started at Jacobs University and I am back to the regular teaching routine. One of the courses I teach is Emotion and Motivation and so it is only natural to make a link between some of the topics that come up in the course and this blog.
The fact that emotions are important appears obvious to most people, but whether research on emotion is important is less so. Depending on the current global, or local, historical context it is more apparent which role emotions can play. They are important at the level of the individual, of smaller groups of people, and of large groups. The current events in Egypt and the news reports in the various media have touched everybody I know. While there are many reasons why people want freedom and prosperity, it is clear that the want is accompanied by strong emotions. Note, that I wrote accompanied - because scientifically, it is not easy to demonstrate an exclusive causation - and of course, we would have to get back to the perennial question of how to define emotions exactly. I also have no empirical data - nobody would want to go to Tahrir square and start measuring how people feel, or how their body responds. So, for the time being let us stick with a softer statement: Emotions play a role in this whole business. And they do that on all sides. One of the things I showed in class was a short clip from CNN with Anderson Cooper ("Video: Anderson Cooper takes on intimidation."). Fear on all sides.
The current events make it again clear that Fear is not just something that appears to happen to us, but that Fear is something that people can do to other people. Intimidation at a personal or at an institutional level is used to bias/change the behavior of others. Thus we can think of emotions also a social tool and not just a subjective experience, or bodily process.
One of the topics I am currently dealing with is the regulation of emotion. In the wider sense this relates not only to how emotions are regulated within our body/mind, but also how emotions regulate the interaction of people and the behavior of groups of different size. There is a current debate to what degree it is possible to distinguish emotions from their regulation. I, for example, argue that emotions always involve regulatory processes.
Kappas, A. (201!). Emotion and regulation are one! Emotion Review, 3, 17–25. doi:10.1177/1754073910380971
Wow ... time flies when you're having fun. I took a few weeks off. Not to go to some desert island, not to go climbing mountains, or to discover new museums, but instead to spend some time at home and take care of some dental work that was way overdue. Now "vacation time" is over and it is back to work. This is orientation week at Jacobs University and we will be welcoming the new students. Vuvuzelas are far away indeed and there are lots of exciting things to come in the next few weeks, also for my own research, including the new eCUTE project that I will at some point also write ...
So summer was also a quiet time for this blog, but of course it is never a quiet time in my head when it comes to emotions. I used the time to plan a bit what to write about in the next few weeks. I think I will definitely discuss a bit more two topics that are inspired by my summer in the dentist chair: 1) The importance of the smile - as a social signal and 2) how difficult it is to disentangle emotion and emotion regulation. Let me tell you, there was a lot of emotion on the chair and off the chair and there was a lot of regulation.
Aftermath of the tragedy at Loveparade in Duisburg, Germany, July 24, 2010, Image Globovision. Licensed under common license http://www.flickr.com/photos/globovision/4824530153/ original caption: Trabajadores sanitarios trasladan a una persona herida tras una estampida provocada por un pánico colectivo en el túnel de acceso a la antigua estación de mercancías de Duisburgo, donde se celebraba la fiesta de música electrónica "Loveparade"
Time flies. The last post I wrote was before the final of the world cup. The goal of the last post was to point out how some of the key concepts of emotion theories often focus on the individual and neglect the complex interplay of individuals with networks of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers, both in real interactions and in implied, implicit ways.
I was very happy to receive both emails, and comments via the blog, pointing out that social processes play a role. Indeed - this is the thrust of my argument. concepts such as "relevance" can only explain so much ... In a public situation, after the win of the team, one can think in addition to what I outlined hte last time of comparison processes (if everybody is excited, it probably is exciting, even if I am not sure), to very low-level processes of contagion that follow from the perception of others around us. Feedback processes at multiple levels.
And now for a harsh switch of valence - from euphoria to hysteria.
Yesterday evening, I watched, on television and the Internet, as did many in Germany, events as the tragedy of Duisburg started to unfold. All the while the techno beat was still pounding and lights were flashing with hundreds of thousands of fans apparently unaware of the carnage just a few stone throws away. It is clear that the causes of the event are manifold and now, with hindsight, it appears that bad decisions with regard to the planning might have contributed to the sequence of events. However, one thing is sure - lots of people in a tight space, pushing and shoving, in the heat, played a big role. Did we really witness a stampede? Whenever we talk or think about crowd behavior the question is whether "the crowd" really exists. Does the crowd have a mind? Surely it does not have a (single) brain. The concept of the crowd is a very difficult one when trying to describe behavior in human - whether it relates to offline or online behavior (see CYBEREMOTIONS:EU).
In my mind bridging the analysis of the behavior of individuals and the behavior of large groups of individuals in real time is one of the major challenges for social psychology today.
Scientists from many disciplines are trying to observe, describe, predict, and modify panic behavior as one of the most destructive "mass" behaviors. Here is a link from an Australian TV program, CATALYST. The hope is that research bridging biology, psychology, mathematics, and even physics can help to prevent catastrophes, such as the one in Duisburg yesterday.
Arvid Kappas is Professor of Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen. He has been conducting research on emotions for over three decades in the US, Canada, and in several European countries.